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  • Afterword:From Colonial History to Colonial Genealogies
  • John D. Blanco (bio)

"How is an opposition resolved?" Marx once famously asked. His answer? "By making it impossible." Marx's comment was directed against a pamphlet published by Bruno Bauer called "The Jewish Question" in 1843; and presented, in summary form, a critique of Bauer's assumption that the Jewish religion was irreducibly at odds with the Christian secular state. Yet Marx's observation just as easily applies, as guest editor Dan Nemser suggests, to scholars of early modern Latin American history and culture confronted with the seemingly irreducible opposition between those who understand globalization to be a universal evolutionary process involving primarily the development of free markets; and the stalwart advocates of a "Latin American difference." The latter has been expressed in various ways throughout the long twentieth century: from the "Nuestroamericanismo" of José Martí to the indígenista theories of José Carlos Mariateguí in Perú; the policies of Mexican President Lázaro Cardenas (1934–1940); the structuralist and now "neostructuralist" adaptations of world-systems theory; to recent proponents of "the coloniality of power" perspective, which subordinates questions of political economy to a lens directed at the power politics of domination, sovereignty, racial hierarchy, and the politico-theological continuity of Spain's Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula overseas.1 Both frames of analysis begin with the observation that "the early modern Iberian world occupies an ambiguous place in the history of capitalism";2 and both have tended to see this ambiguous place as a problem that required some resolution or synthesis in order for the histories of the Americas to "fit" into either the history of capitalism as a structure or as a mode of economic production; or the history of [End Page 130] colonial domination as a tale of what Indian Subaltern Studies editor Ranajit Guha famously called "dominance without hegemony."3

Buoyed by the rise of "new," decentered, and heterogeneous histories of capitalism, the scholars presented in this special issue share not only a common impatience and exhaustion with the limits of traditional political economy and coloniality-of-power as they manifest in Latin American (and increasingly, Pacific and trans-Pacific) Studies (particularly the humanities); but also a willingness to engage directly with the third, triangulating term of the conference (held at the University of Michigan in October 2016), which spurred the publication of this JEMCS special issue: Catholicism or Christian thought, particularly neo-Scholastic and Jesuit. Yet far from attempting to resurrect or generalize a uniquely "Catholic," Christian, or Counter-Reformation approach to the subfields of early modern colonial studies—the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the proliferation of contraband trade and informal economies, the role of accounting and finance in the standardization and expansion of a money economy—the contributors return us ever again to the unexplored or, in any case, undertheorized elements of Marxist thought, which have provided a veritable toolbox of concepts for redrawing the political geographies and ecologies of colonial empire and globalization. These concepts—beginning with Marx's treatment of "so-called primitive accumulation" and extending to the distinction between formal and real subsumption, the prehistories of monetization, the divergent interpretations of "use value," and the subordination of law to the economy of profit—not only explode the myth that the formal coherence of capitalism as a system corresponds to its various realizations in history, but also demonstrate the permanently unfinished, incomplete, and partial character of capitalism as a lived experience and social order in the Americas.4 In this regard, Dipesh Chakrabarty's observation acquires its full weight: that our insistence on theorizing historical transitions to the history of capital from its peripheries, which we identify as the history of Western modernity or Euro-centrism, belies the underlying work of constantly translating the experience of our modern world, "divergent modernities" or "modernity at large," as Julio Ramos and Arjun Appadurai (respectively) call these, into the language of capital and its seemingly unique and extraordinary narrative of gestation, coalescence, consolidation, and crisis.5

It should come as no surprise that one of the original frames for thinking Colonialism-Capitalism-Catholicism together in the expansion of the Iberian powers overseas developed in and around a...


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